Reviewed by Carlos deVillalvilla
(Click on the images to see larger version and credits.)
The poet said that no man is an island, but that is not so. In fact, every person is an island. We are not Borg (although my good friend Targeteer is) with the thoughts of millions in our heads; we are alone inside our skulls, and though we may share space and intimacy with others, at the end of the day it is ourselves we are alone with, no matter what the situation.
For Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks), an executive and troubleshooter for FedEx, the situation is always chaos, perpetual motion on a stopwatch. He travels the world for FedEx, helping various branches become models of efficiency in processing packages for delivery. After a successful stint in Russia, he returns home to a well-deserved holiday break and an adoring girlfriend (Helen Hunt) to whom he pops the question just as he is getting on a plane to put out another fire halfway around the world.
Life, according to John Lennon, is what happens when you're making plans. In Noland's case, life is a terrifying plane crash into a stormy sea. Noland eventually washes ashore on a deserted island, but unlike Gilligan and his crew, there are no huts, no supplies of food and no ingenious professors who can do anything except build a shortwave radio. The island is barren, a great big rock in the South Pacific.
After the initial shock, Noland slowly begins to realize that there will be no quick rescue. In certain Hollywood movies, Noland would be an ex-Army Ranger who can survive on a canteloupe and a thimble for thirty days; in "Cast Away," he has few survival skills other than an insatiable will to live, and a picture of his fiancee to motivate him. Chuck must reinvent himself on a primitive level in order to survive; he must become food gatherer, firebringer and water bearer. He must survive heat and storm, loneliness and depression, hunger and thirst. He must learn to carry hope with him like a wallet, and fend off the madness slowly encroaching into his mind.
As time goes by, Noland is able to just get by, but even through his dementia he realizes that if he remains on the island he will eventually die. To avoid that, he begins devising a daring escape, using flotsam from the crash and other debris washed up by the sea.
The great majority of the movie takes place on the island. Most of the movie is just Hanks, without music or very much dialogue. Few actors could pull it off, but Hanks again gives an Oscar-worthy performance (when was the last time that the guy made a movie that didn't get people thinking in that direction?) that transcends traditional movie logic. If you described to a studio suit a movie with the situation just described, he would undoubtedly respond with have your people call his people, let's do lunch and don't let the door hit you in the drawers on the way out.
In this case, the director, Robert Zemeckis, and the star, Tom Hanks, have a certain amount of stroke (considering the last time they teamed up they delivered "Forrest Gump" it isn't hard to see why) and the two had the presence of mind to seek out Dreamworks, Steven Spielberg's company, to distribute.
The results are an amazing movie, full of splendor, beauty and tension. Hanks is perfect in the role. If it were Harrison Ford or Mel Gibson on this beach, you'd expect them to survive. For Hanks, the modern equivalent of Jimmy Stewart, the boy next door is in real deep kimchee in this situation. The movie works because you believe it. During the escape sequence, when Noland's companion, Wilson, parts, it is an extremely moving moment. Da Queen had a box of hankies for that one.
The movie takes place in three distinct sequences, and as has been noted elsewhere, constituted a break in filming while Hanks emaciated himself and Zemeckis went on to make "What Lies Beneath," a fine movie in its own right. Our world is full of noise, frenetic motion, a busy cornucopia of career and personal life. The island is quiet, paced as the waves lapping against the shore. Time dilates into a distant memory here. Even the watch won't work.
On a different level, however, the movie is about time and how we use it -- and how it can be taken away from us. It is about survival, what we can manage to accomplish in a desperate situation. It is about the island that is all of us.
VIDEO OR THEATER?
This megahit is worth seeing in the
theater for the spectacular plane crash sequence
alone; however, the island sequence would work just as
well on a smaller screen (particularly if you have a
nice screen and a DVD for crisp digital images and
sharp stereo sound).
See cast, credit and other details about "Cast Away" at Internet Movie Data Base.